How many games will the Milwaukee Bucks Basketball Club win this year?
Mitchell: I’m gonna say a number, and here’s why: I am an optimist masquerading as a pragmatist, and I don’t actually know all that much about basketball. Kidding aside (mostly...), I think that Giannis takes The Leap this season, and Jabari takes a Leap-Lite (now with less calories!), and that both players show off that they can carry a team for a whole game. With a few savvy veterans added to the mix, I simply think the team is better-equipped to be in close games, and that Giannis and Jabari will put them over the edge a few times. 37 wins.
Eric B: I’m not too high on this season. I’m sorry. I can’t state enough how bad of a loss the Middleton injury is, and I think that really thins the margin for error here. Giannis and Jabari should put up really good numbers and they should both make positive strides, but I just don’t know how big those improvements will be. Also, the additions this summer should complement Giannbari well, but (hot take alert) I don’t think this roster has enough talent to compete like they hope to, but I suppose that’s a discussion for another time.
If they stay healthy, they might be a pleasant enough surprise, but I’m not willing to let myself go there. It just seems like too much would have to break right for the team to approach that 40-ish win range, and that’s with perfect health. I can’t talk myself into it. 30 wins.
Brett: Like I mentioned in Part 1, I have doubts about how the team will fare without Middleton as a stabilizing force on both ends of the floor. Middleton value might be something that teammates don’t really realize they have until it’s not there anymore, and the argument can be made they’ve already tasted a bit of what life without him will feel like.
Bucks gave up 41-6 run in previous game, too. Well-oiled machine. https://t.co/1JncP5yoTT— Brew Hoop (@brewhoop) October 16, 2016
Add in the amorphous and uncharacteristic parity/lack of predetermined tanking in both conferences, and even easy wins might not be so easy to come by. 33.27 wins.
Adam: I had the Bucks pegged for about the same number of wins this year as last year before Middleton. Without him, I just can’t see the role players contributing consistently enough to keep this team afloat. Not to mention the fact a bad Giannis/Jabari night basically spells doom, and I’m not totally sure they’re ready for the tonnage thrust upon their backs this year. Like seemingly every Bucks season, injuries will force below average players into more prominent roles, and I see the team buckling too often to beat the plethora of “just okay” teams in the league. Giannis and Jabari will tear it up, but the team will falter all season long, and the franchise will be in a better place because of it come draft time. 29 wins.
Eric N: In the first series of predictions, I suggested that Antetokounmpo would would average 20/8/7 and Parker would average 20 points as well. With those numbers, it’s hard to imagine a team actually being bad, but some of the numbers they put up will be empty to an extent and the roster just doesn’t make a lot of sense without Middleton. The options at shooting guard are pretty bad. They have three pretty solid centers, but no idea how their rotation will work. As evidenced by the Bucks the last two seasons, NBA defenses can change their ranking dramatically in just a single season, but there are minus defenders all over the roster. So, is it possible for the Bucks to put together a .500 record or better? Sure. Is it likely? Not particularly. Because of the brilliance of Antetokounmpo and Parker, I will give the Bucks 35 wins.
Over/Under Bucks defensive rating 15th in the NBA
Eric B: This is tempting because you want to think that the big problems this defense had last season will be addressed and corrected. I just don’t know if that’s what’s going to happen, though. There will be some improvement I think, but a Teletovic and Monroe (though they’re not the whole problem) front court is still a concern and losing Middleton’s versatility (and communication!) is going to be hard to replace. I’ll take the under and slot them somewhere around 20-23.
Mitchell: Eric laid out the two main points that I was going to bring up: the team still has too many minus-defenders that need playing time (Moose, Telly, Jabari, even Plumlee), and they’re REALLY going to miss Middleton. Under, 22nd is my official prediction.
Brett: If Monroe is moved and the Mensa puzzle of crafting a workable rotation around him, Jabari, and Teletovic is solved, I’ll go over. If not, I’ll go under.
Shut up, you’re not a real answer.
Adam: I think the perimeter defense will hopefully be better with Brogdon, Snell and Dellavedova. That could shore up some of the easy penetration teams got last year, but I think the interior is riddled with too many negative guys. I’ll say under, probably around 25th.
Eric N: A roster littered with poor defenders? A team looking to force turnovers because they struggle in half-court settings offensively and their two best players are 21 years old? That feels like a recipe for disaster, but there are a number of smart people in the organization and it seems safe to assume that there will be a number of tweaks to the Bucks’ defensive system from last season. So, I’m okay thinking there will be some improvement, but maybe only to around the 18-22 range.
Over/Under Giannis and Jabari making 100 combined 3-pointers
Eric B: I’d take the over if this was about attempts, but I don’t think Jabari or Point Giannis will shoot enough to make 100 total at the clip they hit those shots at. I don’t think that has to be a bad thing in their development, though.
Mitchell: I can see it now: the All Star break comes to a close, and the Bucks have already lost a ton of games (which was mostly expected). Jabari has turned himself into a pretty credible threat for the corners and already has ~40 made threes, and he’s starting to turn heads. Giannis only has 12 threes on the year, gets jealous and decides that he wants to light NBA Twitter on fire again, and shows off the perimeter jumper other teams dread him ever developing. I take the over!
Adam: Over. If only so I don’t have to feel depressed about some of these predictions anymore.
Brett: Over. What Adam said.
Eric N: After the All-Star Break, Parker took 28 threes and Antetokounmpo took 42 threes in 28 games. That’s 2.5 three point attempts per game. If that rate holds and they shoot just 30 percent per game in a 82-game schedule, we would be looking at around 60 made threes on the season. During the preseason, they took 3.1 threes per game and assuming that same 30 percent rate, we’re around 75 made threes on the season. My gut and the numbers say I should take the under, but I want to see more threes, so I’ll take the over.
Over/Under 25% Usage rate for Michael Beasley
After striking out on a quantifiable measure for groans induced per game, usage rate seemed like the best way to measure Beasley’s tenure on the Bucks this season. Beasley has only averaged a usage rate below 25% once in his eight NBA seasons, his 2014-15 campaign with the Miami Heat. Even then, he was only at 24.2%, a rate which would’ve been tops on the Bucks team last year. This preseason he slotted in at 29.1% in his four appearances.
Mitchell: I may as well keep the optimist train going: Beasley, realizing that this might be his last chance at NBA relevance, heeds the words of his coaches and starts to defer every other offensive possession. He ends the season at 24.8%, just shy of the over/under mark.
Eric B: I will never doubt Michael Beasley. He is capable of anything we can dream up.
Adam: Kidd and the Bucks are gonna catch a bad case of the Beasles this year, and I think we’re in for some spectacular displays of body contortion to assure he gets his shots up. Also, are we sure he doesn’t owe money to anyone in Shanghai? I have a feeling he’s probably got some outstanding bets there, so he’s gotta show out for that next paycheck!
Brett: What did we just say about depressing questions? Under.
Eric N: Basketball Reference tells me that Beasley has a career 26.9 usage rating and posted a career-high 29.7 usage rating last season with the Rockets. This is an easy over.
Plumlee vs. Henson: who plays more minutes at center?
Mitchell: Plumlee, by a mile. While J-Hook showed some signs of life during the pre-season, Plumlee has a far longer history of on-court production with Giannis at point guard. Henson is the best defender of the three centers, but I simply don’t think Kidd will give him enough minutes at center, and I don’t believe Henson can justify any PF minutes.
Adam: Plumlee. Lack of significant facial hair will make him easier to include in Bucks photoshops at the arena this year.
Frank: Plumlee, though not for entirely good reasons. He seems likely to start (positive!), but he’s also tougher to trade because of his age and bigger contract (oh...).
Eric B: Absolutely not John Henson.
Eric N: Plumlee because, well, John Henson.
Mitchell: Why do we have John Henson again?
Brett: I was going to pile on Henson here like usual, but it seems like the rest of the guys got it. Plumlee easily, and a lot of that is probably from the fact that I (begrudgingly) foresee some Henson-Monroe lineups coming our way...
Teletovic vs. Beasley: who averages more points?
Mitchell: I’m taking Beasley on this one, if only because I don't think he’s going to play in enough games to bring his average down, where as Teletovic will play in every game he dresses for, but will not get nearly as many shot attempts as Super Cool Beas will force up in fewer minutes.
Eric B: I like the logic, Mitchell, but I don’t think Beasley taking more shots will necessarily translate into points every night, so I’ll take Trailetovic and his freewheeling ways from beyond the arc.
Frank: I’m voting Telly because I don’t want to imagine Beasley getting major minutes.
Eric N: Teletovic will definitely see more consistent minutes and thus should score more consistently, but Mitchell’s scenario doesn’t feel all that far fetched. I’ll make a more hopeful prediction than smart prediction and say Teletovic.
Brett: Beasley is per-minutes/per-100, Teletovic in what actually matters in this case (per-game).
Snell vs. Vaughn vs. Terry vs. Novak: who makes the most threes?
Mitchell: I wrote this question, and I hate it so much. I’ll say Vaughn so I can get laughed at the hardest in six months.
Eric B: I’ll take Snell.
what have our lives become?
Frank: Novak won’t play and I’m not sure Vaughn can play, so I think it’s between Snell and Terry. The old vet nearly cracked triple figures last year while Snell hit only 56, but I think I’d still lean Snell since he’s likely going to get so much more burn.
Eric N: Snell will be a minutes eater, much like a veteran pitcher would be an innings eater, for the Bucks this season and those minutes will allow him to make the most threes. Jason Terry will definitely make it close though with his penchant for getting threes up while he’s in the game.
Adam: I’ll take Terry. It’s his only appreciable skill at this point, and for some sad reason I’m already envisioning frigid January nights of Terry eating up minutes either due to injuries or incompetence.
Maker vs. Brogdon: who has the better rookie season?
Eric B: It’s hard for me to answer this because I don’t know what “better” means. I think Brogdon will play more because he isn’t stuck behind as much of a logjam as Thon is, and thus it will look like he’s making more of an impact (which I guess will be true). However, if Thon is able to get consistent minutes, that’s pretty successful too, I think. I don’t know, I guess the answer is Brogdon?
Mitchell: Do any of us really know what “better” means, though? Brogdon will play more and produce more by default, but I have a feeling that Thon will actually show more flashes of his overall ability. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Thon is starting to grow on me as a candidate for “future supporting cast member in two years,” despite the weak pre-season.
Adam: With few younger players that seem to have an elevated ceiling, I’ll interpret “better” this season to be flashing any sort of high-level potential. That seems highly unlikely for Brogdon, so I’ll say Thon has the “better” year.
Frank: I guess I’ll go with Brogdon, though mostly by default. Thon just didn’t look physically ready over the past few weeks, while the MCW deal means Brogdon is going to play regular minutes...even if he’s not entirely prepared for them either (32% shooting from the field and 24% from three in the preseason).
Eric N: If you regularly listen to our Locked on Bucks podcasts, you will have noticed this isn’t the first time Frank has used the word default to make a prediction for the season. It’s become a semi-regular part of our vocabulary this season, which speaks to the sad shape of this Bucks roster and always makes me think of this classic scene from The Simpsons:
With that being said, Brogdon seems like the choice here. He has a number of skills that should allow him to see the floor and the Bucks have very little depth at point guard and shooting guard. Maker’s path to playing time seems murky at best at the moment and his success seems difficult to measure as he is a bit of an unfinished product. Brogdon seems like the safe bet...by default.
Mitchell: De-fault! De-fault! De-fault!